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Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff papers

Call Number: MS 1133

Scope and Contents

The Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff Papers document the professional career of Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff, an archaelogist, professor of ancient history, and director of archaeological studies at Yale University, The Rostovtzeff Papers consist of thirteen and one-quarter linear feet of material arranged in thirty-four boxes. Rostovtzeff's manuscripts, notes, lectures, photographs, and miscellanea have span dates of 1914-1952, with much of the material undated. Correspondence with academic colleagues, family members, and others is notably absent from the Rostovtzeff Papers.

The Rostovtzeff Papers are arranged in four series and two additions: I. Manuscripts and Notes 1922-1944. II. Photographs ca. 1914-1938. III. Lectures, 1920-1944. IV. Writings and Miscellanea, 1914-1952.
Series I, MANUSCRIPTS AND NOTES, consists of handwritten and typescript drafts and research information for many of Rostovtzeff's books. These materials were written in a variety of languages, including English, French, and Greek. The series is arranged in the following sections: Hellenistic period - manuscripts, Hellenistic period - notes, Hellenistic period - Social and Economic History, and General.

Hellenistic period - manuscripts contains a group of article or chapter-length essays on several aspects of the Hellenistic period in Greek culture, which dates from the empires of Alexander the Great, the Antigonids, the Seleucids, and the Ptolemies until the eastern conquests of Rome. The writings are heavily annotated and include essays on "The Hellenistic World and Its Economic Development" (folders 3-4) and "The Mentality of the Hellenistic World and the Afterlife " (folder 6). The numerous drafts and revision of these manuscripts suggest that multiple uses of the material—in books, articles, lectures, and other pursuits—were possible.

Hellenistic period - notes is a four box section (boxes 2-5) of research information Rostovtzeff accumulated in the course of his professional career. Notes on the many nations and nation-states active during the period are present, including Egypt (folders 19-21), Italy (folder 25), Macedonia (folder 26), the Ptolemaic empire (folders 35-41), and the Seleucid empire (folders 43-45). The bulk of these notes are in foreign languages and appear to be information Rostovtzeff culled from printed sources during his literary research.

Hellenistic period - Social and Economic History contains Rostovtzeff's drafts and notes for one of his major literary works, Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World,published in 1941. Folders sixty-four through seventy-one contain information relating to illustrations (plates) used in the volume. Rostovtzeff's collection of photographs for this work is arranged in Series II.

General contains an alphabetical arrangement of topical files on such subjects as: China, Decorative wall painting, Dura Europus, Egypt, Parthia, Roman Empire, Samartian period, Scythia, Seleucid Babylonia, and Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire.

Series II, PHOTOGRAPHS, is, arranged in two components: Section A and Section B. This maintains the original order of the material. Each section contains photographs of ancient antiquities, art, buildings, coins, drawings, excavations, jewels, objects, and miscellanea. The bulk of these are professional photographs of artifacts as they would appear in a museum setting. Rostovtzeff's notes on particular photographs are arranged with these materials. Cross-reference citations for those topics of common occurence in Section A and Section B are provided.

Photographs in this series are arranged under headings similar to those used in Series I. Thus, files for the Hellenistic period (Section A, folders 18-37) contain photographs of items from that era and correspond to Rostovtzeff's manuscripts and notes on the topic arranged in Series I. The largest groups of photographs in this series are: Italy, Rome (folders 44-49), Roman Empire (folders 63-68), Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World (folders 73-75), and Russia (folders 128-136). Files for Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire. contain prints of photographs published and considered for publication in that volume (See also: Series I, folders 160-167).

Series III, LECTURES, contains a collection of Rostovtzeff's academic and public lectures [ca. 1920-1944]. Lectures from the University of Wisconsin (folders 165-168) date from 1920-1924. Course outlines and syllabi are included with this material. The focus of these lectures is on ancient history, especially the Roman empire and South Russia.

Lectures arranged under the heading "Yale University and other institutions" (folders 169-195) date from 1925-1944, n.d., and include a wide range of historical and archaeological topics. Among the popular topics for lectures are: the Orient, Greece, Iran and Iranian art, decorative arts, and Dura Europos. A series of notes for eight lectures delivered at the Norwegian Academy of Science in Oslo (1928) are also arranged in this series (folder 175). A small group of "Public Lectures" apparently delivered outside the academic community is arranged in box thirty-one.

Series IV, WRITINGS AND MISCELLLANEA contains a group of writings by Rostovtzeff and others. These materials do not appear to relate directly to his published volumes. Miscellaneous articles, bibliographic notes, and book reviews are arranged in this series (folders 200-207). Addition files in this series include writings on Dura Europos (folders 211-213), Iran (folders 219-220), the Near East (folders 234-235), and Palmyra (folder 236).

Other collections known to contain material by or about Mikhail I. Rostovtzeff include: Ellsworth Huntington Papers (Mss. Gr. No. 1), Wallace Notestein Papers (Mss. Gr. No. 544), and Clarence W. Mendell (Mss. Gr. No. 799).

The Yale Art Gallery houses the records of Dura Europos, an archaeological expedition which Rostovtzeff directed from 1928-1938.


  • 1918-2019


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Original computer files may not be accessed due to their fragility. Researchers must consult access copies.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff, 1942, 1947. The major portion of these papers were previously in the Dura Europos Papers which have been transferred to the Yale Art Gallery. Accession 2019-M-0031: gift of Roger S. Bagnall, 2019.


The papers are arranged in four series and two additions: Manuscripts and Notes, 1922-1944. II. Photographs, 1914-1938. III. Lectures, 1920-1944. IV. Writings and Miscellanea, 1914-1952.

Associated Materials

Related material: Dura-Europos Collection, (Yale Art Gallery, Yale University.)


16.5 Linear Feet (40 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of manuscripts, notes, lectures, photographs, and miscellanea documenting the professional career of Michael I. Rostovtzeff, an archaeologist, professor of ancient history, and director of archaeological studies at Yale University, 1914-1952. Manuscripts and notes contain drafts and research data for Rostovtzeff's major literary works; photographs detail many antiquities and artifacts related to ancient history; lectures contain several papers on archaeological and historical topics, including the Dura Europos excavations in Syria.

Biographical / Historical

Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff was born in Kiev, Russia, on November 10, 1870. He taught ancient history at the University of Wisconsin, 1920-1925, and Yale University, 1925-1939, where he also served as director of archaeological research and curator of ancient art, 1939-1944. Rostovtzeff died in New Haven, Connecticut, on October 20, 1952. He studied at the University of Kiev and the University of Saint Petersburg, 1888-1892, and the University of Vienna and German Archaeological Institute in Rome, 1895-1898. Rostovtzeff received his M.A. and Ph.D in Classical Philology from Saint Petersburg in 1899 and 1903. As an international scholar, Rostovtzeff travelled extensively and published works in several languages, including Greek, French and English. His works on the Dura Europos excavations are extensive. Rostovtzeff also served as president of the American Historical Association in 1935. He married Sophie Michailovna in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on May 8, 1901.
Guide to the Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff Papers
Under Revision
compiled by William E. Brown, Jr.
June 1983
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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